The SNO Report: New Hires. New Office. Same Great Taste.

The Times They Are A-Changin’

There’s been a lot of change around SNO HQ of late. In November, we said goodbye to Ali Catt (real name), who left SNO to focus on her budding writing career. On Monday of this week, we welcomed two new members to the SNO Patrol:  Tom Sugatt and Paul Hamberg.

Tom joins SNO as our new Technical Support Specialist. When you need technical (and light emotional) help, Tom will be the first person you connect with through the email ticketing system, online chat, or on the phone.

Paul joins SNO as our new Technical Specialist. His time will be focused on the behind the scenes stuff that keep your sites running smoothly:  New website and app construction, DNS record management, server resource management, quality testing.

To make room for these great new additions to the SNO team, we packed up our bags in Burnsville and moved north of the Minnesota River to a new office in Bloomington, just a couple of blocks from either the best or worst place on earth: Mall of America. If you’re in the neighborhood, stop by and check out the new office smell!

Badge Season Update

As most of you know, the 2016 SNO Distinguished Sites season is happening right now, which means it’s time to start submitting and earning those badges. If you’re not entirely sure whether or not you qualify for any of the badges, you can check those out here. We’re a little over a month into accepting submissions, and 44 schools in the SNO Network have already received badges, which is awesome.

We’ve even had two schools earn all six badges.  Congratulations to Liberty High School and St. Louis Park High School on becoming our first Distinguished Sites of 2016! But don’t let them have all the glory — start applying for badges now, and your publication can earn those highly sought after bragging rights that come with being a SNO Distinguished Site.

The SNO Report: Resources for journo advisers

As you’ve probably heard by now, SNO is all about taking care of the technology so you can focus on the journalism– but that doesn’t mean we aren’t focusing on journalism either. We’re pretty dedicated to finding ways to make the life of a journalism educator easier; here are 6 resources we think might help with that:

Verification Junkie
Here is a blog dedicated to collecting tools for all of your fact-checking needs. The site gives reviews of each product, as well where you can find it.  An invaluable resource for verification and assessment of your user-generated content, especially information gathered from social media.  Basically, an absolute must for all journo advisers everywhere.
Sponsored by the American Society of News Editors, this site has an abundance of resources for your newsroom– from actual lesson plans and teaching tools to information on workshops, scholarships, and contests, you could (and should) easily spend a few hours exploring the helpful contents of this site.

American Press Institute
Students need resources, too; and whether it’s because you’re too busy doing one of the 2395 other things on your list, or you don’t feel like going over the first amendment twenty times, or even if you just want your staff to do some intrinsic learning, this is a good place to send them for some student-centered journalism resources.

AP Style Quizzes
Do your students struggle with AP Style? Trust us when we tell you they’re not alone– getting used to a new style after years of probably only being allowed to write in MLA isn’t easy. Here is a collection of 18 AP Style Quizzes to give your students. Make sure they’re experts before you send them off into the “real world;” they’ll definitely impress their future J-School classmates at whatever Ivy League school they are sure to get into after taking these quizzes.

Society of Professional Journalists
This one pretty much explains itself– the Society of Professional Journalists have put together useful tools for advisers and educators. It doesn’t get more legitimate than that.

Covering sensitive content
We know it can be intimidating, but we encourage members of the SNO Network to not shy away from reporting on tough topics. These are a few resources and guides that will help your students tackle the more difficult stories with grace.

2016 Al Neuharth Free Spirit and Journalism Conference
The application deadline for the 2016 Al Neuharth Free Spirit and Journalism Conference is fast-approaching.  One high school JUNIOR from every state and the District of Columbia will be selected for an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C., June 18-23, and will be awarded a $1,000 scholarship to the college of his/her choice.  Visit for more information and to apply online.

The 2016 SNO Distinguished Sites Application Season Is Now Open!

Between now and May 31 you can (and really should) apply for any (or all) of the SNO Distinguished Sites badges representing six key components of a modern news website:

  • Continuous Coverage

  • Site Excellence

  • Story Page Excellence

  • Excellence in Writing

  • Multimedia

  • Audience Engagement

Not a contest with winners or losers, the SNO Distinguished Sites program recognizes those sites that meet the standards in each of these core areas. For each set of standards reached, a badge will be displayed on the SNO client list next to that publication’s name.

News staffs are welcome to tackle the badges in any order, striving to earn as many as makes sense for their publication. A site that earns badges in all six core areas will be designated as a SNO Distinguished Site. Any staff that earns the SNO Distinguished Site designation will be permanently recognized on SNO’s Award Winners page.

Last year, in the program’s second season, 103 sites piled up nearly 178 individual badges, with 14 programs earning the honor of Distinguished Site.

If you’re a new program and just starting out, you can use these standards to chart your course. If you’re an experienced program already doing these things, then what are you waiting for? Apply for your badges today.

Submissions will be accepted through May 31, 2016, and you can reapply as often as necessary. Badges will be published on our client list as soon as we review your site.

To learn more and to apply, please visit the the SNO Distinguished Sites page.

The SNO Report: Getting griddy with it

Getting griddy with it: possibilities for the new grid template

Ever wanted to try a “Humans of New York”-style feature on your site, using multiple photographs and short anecdotes or interviews for each? You’re not alone! We’ve gotten zillions of questions about the best way to design these stories, and after scratching our heads for a while, we’ve come up with a story page template that makes creating “stories within stories” a snap. Meet the grid template!

This template has more moving parts than your average story, so it can be a little confusing at first to set up. Just follow these guidelines, and you’ll be on your way.

Like the longform and side-by-side templates,the grid template requires a “container” story as well as “chapter” stories in order to work properly. You should create the container story first. When you create the chapters, you’ll need to make sure each is associated with the container–you’ll be able to choose this from a drop-down menu when you select the grid chapter template.

Your container should be set to at least one category, as usual. Your chapters, however, should remain uncategorized, to prevent them from displaying individually in your category widgets.

Use crisp, clear featured images for each chapter. You’ll get the best results if all of them are the same size and horizontally oriented.

Your container can make use of an immersive featured image. If you decide to go this route, make sure the featured image is larger than normal (we recommend 1500×1000) so that it doesn’t get blurry when expanded.

Having trouble viewing the final product? Make sure all pieces of the story (chapters and container) are fully published.

You can see some more information about the grid template on our help site. Not feeling the Humans of Wherever thing? That’s OK! There are as many possibilities for this template as there are stars in the sky. (Well, almost.) Check out The Little Hawk’s story on freshman athletes to watch.

Famous alum, a club that empowers, why one student #standswithPP: this week on Best of SNO

Has anyone famous gone to your high school? Two of our Best of SNO picks this week know the feeling; with one alum succeeding in the music industry, and the other a former NFL star, the high schools in the SNO Network are educating some seriously impressive people. Don’t have any famous alumni to boast about? No worries– sometimes a new cafeteria, or even a really cool club, is enough to get you noticed. And we noticed all of that and more this week on Best of SNO; read on for our weekly picks, submitted and written by students just like you.

The Cedar Post interview with former NFL Star Jerry KramerOakley Pettit, Sports Editor, Sandpoint High School
“Kramer began his football career here in Sandpoint as an offensive lineman under Coach Cotton Barlow in the 1950s. He was then recruited to the University of Idaho where he played for four years. After a standout collegiate career, he was selected 39th overall by the Green Bay Packers in the 1958 NFL draft.”

Prismo aims for fameNoah Sanchez, Klein Collins High School
“That’s when it truly hit me that I had reached an audience that I could barely even dream about a year ago. In that moment I realized that I have the potential to achieve things beyond my dreams.”

Students react to new cafeteriaRichard Dye, Santaluces Community High School
“From Asian Experience to Cafe Sol y Mar, more and more students are using the new and improved cafeteria. For the most part, students are happy with the food choices, big-screen television sets and faster lines. Other than the food court-like setting, the biggest change has been having three lunch periods during fifth period.”

How to help 62 million girls rise Natalie Kim, Watchung Hills Regional High School
“Yes, we have glass ceilings to break right here in America, but we need to progress as a world together, and we need to help these girls catch up to where they should be. They should be running for president, becoming professionals, and supporting themselves, not fighting for the right to step foot in a schoolhouse.”

Why I stand with Planned Parenthood Lulu Stracher, Staples High School
“What defunding Planned Parenthood actually does is prevent women, especially low income women who have no other form of health care, from receiving safe and accessible reproductive services.”

Want to see your own story featured on Best of SNO?We love featuring student journalism that’s interesting, well-written, and takes a unique angle on the stories we see every day. If you think you have what it takes, polish up that story (or video or multimedia piece) and submit it right here!

The SNO Report: SNO Resources To Boost Your Knowledge And Your Teaching

At SNO, we take care of the technology, so you can focus on the journalism. Many sources offer journalism curriculum — lessons on conducting an interview, taking great photos or polishing your lead — yet few sources exist to meet the specific challenges you face in managing a scholastic news website.

You don’t have to start from scratch or spend a lot of money. As your partner in publishing online we’ve developed some resources for you. Our growing list ofclassroom tools such as job descriptions, story and design checklists and even a workflow chart (all as PDF files), gives you a sense of best practices for online newsroom management.

SNO Team members have presented instructional sessions at conventions from coast to coast, and look for us at national conventions this fall. If you have not been able to attend these sessions, we’ve made the presentations available at Slideshareto view online and for you to use with your staff. You missed us in person, but this is the next best thing!

Even better than a 50-minute convention session is a full day of in-person training customized to the needs of your staff or other group. On these SNO Days we come to meet your staff, a group of advisers in a school district or region, or present a strand at your upcoming conference. In July, our team helped more than 30 schools get a jump start on the school year with a SNO Day in Dallas. Those teachers smartly teamed up to organize the training and share the expense, making the training a real value. Is a SNO Day right for your staff, group, or convention? Contact Kari at [email protected] to discuss fees and possibilities.

No matter your budget or location, SNO has a resource to help you improve what you do as a teacher and adviser.

Unusual snacks, superstar teachers, and halftime drama: this week on Best of SNO

Did you know that more than 80% of the world eats insects on a regular basis? Neither did we, but thanks to the Best of SNO inbox, we now know that crickets are apparently super good for you. (So is kale, but you won’t see us eating that…) Here are some other things we learned this week: public displays of affection don’t count if they’re really, really short. Girls make pretty awesome quarterbacks. A halftime show at one school made a kid cry. And if your school’s in California, your new English teacher might end up being kind of famous. Read on for our weekly picks, submitted and written by students just like you.

Crickets become the new protein sourceJohn Bandek, Clark Magnet High School
“Whey, protein shakes, and protein bars — that’s what some students at Clark are talking about. However, there is a team of five students that have found a better alternative protein source: crickets.”

Band forced to revise halftime showGrace Mottley, The John Carroll School
“Five nights before their first nighttime performance of the year, the administration asked the Marching Band to rework the choreography of their halftime routine. The administration felt the routine was ‘too somber.’”

What it means to throw “Like A Girl”Brady Ruiter, Owatonna High School
“Most athletes can think of a time when they took their first steps on the game field. Freshman Mia Hiber’s memory is more recent than some of her teammates. Hiber is in her first year of organized football, but she is hardly a rookie. Having played backyard ball since first grade, Hiber has a “backyard element” to her game.”

Playwright, actress, journalist and former model joins English DepartmentHannah Jannol, Shalhevet High School
“She has interviewed celebrities for the Los Angeles Times, blogged for the Huffington Post, written a play, and appeared in the several movies. Her life and writing career have been a conglomerate of cool-sounding enterprises, but at Shalhevet, she will be teaching mostly literature.”

New rule on PDA brings mixed reactionsGarrett Gage, Leander High School
“During the first week of school, principal Tiffany Spicer unveiled ‘Catch and Release,’ a new approach to how staff handles student Public Displays of Affection, or PDA. The policy allows students to hug each other, but only for three seconds.”

Want to see your own story featured on Best of SNO? We love featuring student journalism that’s interesting, well-written, and takes a unique angle on the stories we see every day. If you think you have what it takes, polish up that story (or video or multimedia piece) and submit it right here!

Fowl, fwiends, and foreign exchange: this week on Best of SNO

The 2015-16 school year is well underway, and you know what that means — Best of SNO is back! Best of SNO is proud to showcase the very best student journalism being published by schools in our network. Check out this week’s selection of news that tickled our fancy: editorials, features, and a report on a rather ‘fowl’ science experiment.

Why I stand with Ahmed MohamedSadde Mohamed, St. John’s School
“I see a lot of myself in Ahmed. How could I not? He shares two-thirds of my name, looks a bit like I did when I was a freshman and is a black Muslim living in Texas. There is one thing, though, reminding me that he is not actually a clone of myself: his composure.”

Forensic science classes take fowl corpse of actionAllie Gruszkiewicz, Bearden High School
“It looks like a grotesque take of someone’s family dinner: a whole store-bought chicken hanging from the roof of a chain link cage. Bits of meat are rotted and just clinging on, and the insides are wriggling with maggots. The smell is harder to describe, but the phrase “dry-heave-inducing” does it some justice.”

18 Years Old, 6,000 Miles From HomeCaroline Britten, Groom High School
“His journey began in Moscow, Russia, a city with almost 12 million people. He flew 18 hours just to come to Groom, Texas, a town with the population of 563. Nikita Kolesnikov is participating in a foreign exchange program and is spending his second senior year halfway across the world from everything that he’d grown to know.”

Junior champions for human rights in VenezuelaLindsay Collier, Cypress Ranch High
“For most, the concepts of flagrant government corruption, violent repression of outspoken citizens, and torture of opposition leaders would seem more in place in a fantastical dystopian novel than reality. For junior Juan Galipoli, however, these ideas are far from fictional—in fact, these are things he has experienced firsthand.”

Flaming Lips poorly modernize classic albumHelen Wheatley, St. Teresa’s Academy
“The album, which is a track by track cover of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, features many artists such as Miley Cyrus, Tegan and Sara, My Morning Jacket, and Phantogram. From start to finish, With a Little Help from My Fwends is mediocre at best. We can assume the album was supposed to sound extra psychedelic, but the sounds are so overly-electronic that it becomes hard to discern one layer of sound from the next.”

Think you’ve got what it takes to get featured on Best of SNO? We’re always publishing new and interesting stories (including video and multimedia). Check out our submission guidelines and submit your stuff here!

Take a Minnesota SNO Day and improve your website

Join us for an intense workshop packed with training and designed to help you learn and immediately put into practice methods to improve your website. The entire SNO Team will be on hand to meet you where you are and take you to the next level.

When: Tuesday, Dec. 89:15 a.m.-1:30 p.m.

Where: SNO Global HQ, Burnsville

Price: $150 per school team
One adviser plus one or two students. Add a student for $50.
Fees include refreshments and a box lunch for each person.
To assist with planning, please reserve your spot by Nov. 25.

This kind of SNO Day doesn’t involve bad weather. It’ll be nothing but useful information, experienced guidance and a chance to focus on your website without distractions. Oh, and we’ll have cookies.

The day’s group instruction will concentrate on showing you methods to keep your site fresh, manage the content on your home page, improve the look and utility of your story pages and how to pluck relevant information from your analytics to make decisions about coverage and promotion. You’ll have time to interact with other schools and to practice what you’ve learned.

End the day with a personalized critique just for your site from a member of the SNO Team, starting at 1 p.m. You’ll leave in time to beat traffic and return to school.

Register here:

Best of SNO: Now open for submissions

Best of SNO showcases the best student journalism from members of the SNO Network (that’s you!) Why? We believe in recognition and inspiration–by displaying excellent work, we hope to inspire students with fresh ideas and new approaches to traditional news material. Many educators also use examples from Best of SNO as teaching tools in their classes.

Best of SNO is now open for submissions! We post new content daily, so we’re always on the prowl for great writing, original images, video, audio, and whatever else you’ve got up your sleeve. Stories submitted to Best of SNO should be previously published on your own news site. Simply put, we like good journalism–engaging, concise, and relevant–but for more detailed dos and don’ts, check out our guidelines here!

And it’s never too early to start thinking about the SNO Distinguished Sites program; with the school year in full swing, you’re no doubt curating and cultivating tons of great content– so why not get recognized for it? Starting in January, submissions for our Distinguished Sites program will open, but you can start working towards those badges right now.

SNO’s Distinguished Sites Program is composed of six separate badges, each representing a component of a successful news website. The badges are:

  • Continuous Coverage

  • Site Excellence

  • Story Page Excellence

  • Excellence in Writing

  • Multimedia

  • Audience Engagement

We’ve even come up with some new goals for you; because of our two new story page templates and SNO Story Elements, we’ve made some updates on the requirements for the Story Page Excellence badge. Out of the eight stories you submit for this particular badge:

You can apply for the badges in any order; for each set of standards reached, a badge will be displayed on the SNO client list next to that publication’s name. A site that earns all six badges will be considered a Distinguished Site. You can find more information about the Distinguished Sites program in our customer portal!